Overall it was a lousy year in the vegetable garden. The tomatoes were mostly a disaster. It was so cold so late into summer that they got a really rough start. Last year I froze tons of them. This year I didn’t even have enough to give away to neighbors.
The cucumbers were awful. I might have planted them too late, or maybe it was just bad weather, but I grow them almost exclusively for pickling and I didn’t enough to even make one batch of pickles. We ate a few in salads and they were delicious, but if I’m going to be pickling, I need enough to make at least a few jars at a time.
The zucchini were OK. Not great, and I never had to resort to making zucchini bread to use it up, but what we had was delicious.
The green beans were a disaster. I think green beans are probably my favorite vegetable. I didn’t plant nearly enough of them and they just didn’t keep producing. I had enough to make green bean soup (a summer favorite) just once and the rest were consumed in the garden. I love them raw!
Three crops that I planted at home did really well this year. The Swiss chard was amazing and just keeps on producing, to the point where we almost can’t look at it anymore. The beets were so delicious, but I only really had enough for two dinners (with some leftovers to put on salads).
But the real standout was a new crop for me this year: kale. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like to eat kale in spring. I do love it as an ornamental. But I’ve learned that if I grow something, I’m much more likely to eat it and I was hoping that would be the case with this nutrient-packed superfood.
When it became clear that I planted way too many seeds in the new raised bed, I transplanted the thinned seedlings to bare spots in the circle garden by the house. To my surprise, they almost all grew and not a single critter (wild or domesticated) bothered them one bit. I still think they are gorgeous and worth planting just for that, but it turns out I love eating it too.
I planted three varieties: Redbor Kale, Rainbow Lacinato Kale and Nero di Tuscana Kale
For eating purposes my favorite has been the Nero di Tuscana, which has slim, dark leaves.
I know that kale chips are all the rage, and trust me, I’ve tried them. I think I tried them five separate times and every time I hated them. They sort of turned into salty dust no matter what I did.
And then I found this recipe and I’m hooked. I crave this salad all the time. It’s so good. In fact, since I discovered it, this is the ONLY way I’ve eaten kale. I’ve also taken it to a couple parties where it was a huge hit, and I don’t think kale is known as a big people pleaser. My recipe is a version of this one although I’ve changed it so much it doesn’t really resemble that one much anymore.
The Impatient Gardener delicious kale salad
A BIG bunch of kale (my favorite for this is Nero di Tuscana, but other varieties work too)
About 3 ounces good parmesan cheese, shaved
Juice from one lemon
Teaspoon of lemon zest
1/4 cup olive oil
Toasted pine nuts (optional)
Rinse the kale well, remove the back rib and chop crosswise into half-inch wide strips. I wash it again in a salad spinner to make sure no bugs have come along for the ride and that it’s very dry.
Chop a shallot finely and combine it with the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. You can play with the amounts, but I generally like more acid in my dressings so I do at least 50-50. Combine it all and put it in the fridge. I find that the dressing is best if you can let it sit for an hour or more to mellow a little.
Combine the kale with the shaved parmesan. I use my vegetable peeler to get wide strips of cheese. It will seem like a lot of cheese, and in fact it is, but everything else in this salad is super healthy so go for it.
Toss it all together with the dressing (go a little heavier than you would for a regular lettuce salad) and let it sit for 15 minutes or so so the kale gets a touch softer (don’t worry, it won’t go limp on you). Toss with pine nuts and serve.
If you try it, let me know what you think.